FAR FROM INSTANT GRATIFICATION

After I adjust to the claustrophobic feeling of spending much of my time indoors, what strikes me when I return to the U.S. is how very easy everything is when you live in a civilized area. If you run out of something you "need," you simply hop in your car, dash over to a well-stocked store, pick it up, and continue with what you were doing. This does not happen where we live.

My first visit to a supermarket after leaving the jungle is invariably a lengthy affair. I walk through the door with the best intentions to buy what I need and get out of there quickly, but by the end of the first aisle I'm so overwhelmed with choices my brain shuts down. I wander through the rest of the store in a daze, astounded that my many years of experience shopping for a large family are in no way helpful after seven years of shopping at Super Rey, the little grocery store 25 minutes from our house.

This is the big supermarket in Carmona, an hour and a quarter from our house, where our son-in-law grew up. Here we can pick up a few things

that we can't get at Super Rey, but mostly a bigger store only means larger quantities of the same stuff; the limited selection of products is the same everywhere you go. If you need chocolate chips you ask around to see if anyone is going to an area with a higher concentration of ex-pats and put in your order. One great thing about the lack of selection is that we don't eat much processed food, which is very good for our health. That's great, except without the aid of convenience foods (ready-to-eat greens-in-a-bag, healthy snacks, sliced deli turkey,etc.), it seems all I do is cook. I am forever baking bread and making granola because, unfortunately, I still haven't developed a taste for rice and beans, which is what the locals eat three meals a day.

This is the hardware store in Carmona. At first Bill had a little trouble being mid-project and unable to get what he needed when he needed it, but he's used to it by now and figures this factor into estimates of when a job will get done. A project that would take an hour in the U.S. can sometimes stretch into days or even weeks, but when there's absolutely no alternative but to bite the bullet and wait patiently, that's what you learn to do. Amazon Prime can't help us here.

How can we complain about being unable to get the proper size screws for a few days when most people don't even have cars? The only public transportation is a bus that passes through Javilla shortly after noon and again around midnight. One of our workers was delighted when Chan drove him and his wife home from the hospital with their newborn, thereby eliminating a bumpy 2 plus-hour hot and crowded bus trip. I am humbled when I think what my reaction would have been if someone had stuck me on a bus with a one-day-old infant back when I was producing babies.

One alternative to busses is an empty cattle truck. Compared to walking many miles in the hot sun, a cattle truck can feel like a limosine. It's all what you're used to . . .